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Russ & Daughters

Russ & Daughters

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Add This - Russ & Daughters

Written by Mark Russ FedermanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Russ Federman
Foreword by Calvin TrillinAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Calvin Trillin

  • Format: eBook, 224 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken
  • On Sale: March 5, 2013
  • Price: $14.99
  • ISBN: 978-0-8052-4311-6 (0-8052-4311-9)
Also available as a hardcover.


What do you think your ancestors would say about your having put the Russ family story to paper? What does your mother think of all of it?
My ancestors might say: “Who knew you could become a celebrity from herring?” My Mother has said:  “What’s taking you so long?  Hurry up and finish the book.  Your Aunt Hattie and I want to be around when the book is released.”{Mom will be 92 this year; Aunt Hattie turns 100 in two months.}
What do you miss most about the day-to-day in the store?
The daily drama; and, me being in the center of that drama.
How does it feel to go from being a deli-man for half a century to a published author? It’s quite a career change!
First, let it be clear that I am not a “deli man” and Russ & Daughters is not a “deli.”  We are an “appetizing store,” and I— in case you haven’t noticed—am an “appetizing man.”  Going from lex to lox was easier than going from retail to writing.  It turns out that writing is even harder than retail and just about everything is harder than practicing law.
How (if at all) has your perception of Russ & Daughters changed after having gone back and turned a journalistic eye to the birth and development of the store?
I have found out that Russ & Daughters is a special place with a real soul.  It’s hard to appreciate that while you’re actually running the store.
Was there anything surprising you discovered in your research? 
I discovered that my ancestors were a lot smarter than I had thought.
How has the store, itself, changed over your lifetime?
Everything has changed: the customers, the employees, the products and the neighborhood.  Even the way we do business: what was done across the counter can now be done across cyberspace.
The Lower East Side has gone through significant changes since Russ & Daughters opened in 1914—what was once a neighborhood predominantly inhabited by Jewish immigrants is now an epicenter of many different races and religions. How has the R&D clientele changed along with these developments, and how did the store maintain its popularity throughout the neighborhood’s transformations?
We were once a Jewish family owning a store selling Jewish foods to a Jewish clientele in a Jewish neighborhood. Just about everything in that statement has changed except that we are still the Russ Family.  With our name over the door we continue to be responsible for perfectly lining up customers, countermen, and fish hundreds of times a day.
In your opinion, what has been the key to Russ & Daughters’ success? A 99 year old store is truly something special in a city that is constantly searching for the next best thing.
In each generation a Russ that chooses to come into the business and is passionately devoted to preserving the quality of the products and the service is the key to our survival and our success. Having the next generation choose to do for a living what you have done is the ultimate validation of your life’s work. Watching your kid slice lox, now that’s real success.
What’s your typical order at the store?
A pound of nova, cut it thin, my son- the-doctor is coming for brunch.
What’s next for you? Do you plan to keep writing?
I already have a title for my next book: “Sex Symbol of the Herring World.” It’s a work of fiction.